Down Home LA: Jailhouse Rock

A RLCC inmate plays along with classical guitarist, John Di Chiaro.
A RLCC inmate plays along with classical guitarist, John Di Chiaro.(KALB)
Published: Nov. 3, 2016 at 11:48 AM CDT
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Classical guitarist John Di Chiaro remembers the first solo he played in front of an audience. At just 12 years old, the guitarist played “Classical Gas,” a song few musicians dare to tackle, especially before they’re old enough to grow a beard.

With the memory of his first performance still fresh years later, Di Chiaro wanted to give that same joy to others. That’s why, when he received the call from a friend who had plans to donate guitars and instruction to inmates at Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, he couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.

“When I come down here, I’m motivated and invigorated to work with these great people,” said Di Chiaro following his student’s first recital Tuesday night. “The treat you like a rock star.”

Inmate Michael Gordon has been training under Di Chiaro for a few months and agrees that his fellow prisoners don’t take this opportunity for granted.

“Give a person that doesn’t have a lot just a little bit and they’ll want to run with it,” said Gordon. “People are a lot more giving than I thought.”

After just a few months of training and only a few scheduled hours a week allotted for the prisoners to practice, the inmates performed solo and group numbers in front of an audience of wardens and their fellow peers.

To listen to their performance of classical and contemporary music, view the video above.